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Meeting the needs of people with disabilities, their families, educators & service providers

Posts Tagged ‘student records’

Parents must provide schools a reasonable opportunity to respond to record requests.

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Letter to Anonymous, 111 LRP 67052 (FPCO 2011):  The Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) notified a parent that, notwithstanding the requirement that a school district provide the parent an opportunity to review the educational records of her child within forty-five (45) days of her request, the parent must address the district’s response within a reasonable timeframe.  Here, the parent requested to review her child’s records in January, and the 45 day timeline expired on March 15.  Despite multiple responses from the district attempting to arrange a time for her review, the parent failed to respond to the district until March 11.  The FPCO determined that the parent’s affording the district such a narrow window of opportunity (two days) was unreasonable, and therefore the district did not violate FERPA.

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Alabama District Judge rules that the IDEA does authorize independent educational evaluations at public expense (overruling magistrate judge).

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Phillip and Angie C. v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 57 IDELR 97 (N.D. Ala. 2011):  A U.S. District Judge overruled a magistrate judge’s recommendation that the IDEA does not authorize IEEs at public expense.  Given the circumstances surrounding the regulation (e.g., that it has been in place since 1977 and Alabama has a similar state regulation), the District Judge determined that the IDEA statute’s omission of “at public expense” did not render the regulation void since the agency (here the Department of Education) is delegated authority to fill any gap Congress leaves in a statute.  The regulation providing for IEEs at public expense fills that gap.

The District Judge upheld the magistrate’s other recommendation, however, that the hearing officer did not have authority to order production of copies of the student’s records under the circumstances in this case.  Specifically, the hearing officer determined that, once the parents filed a due process complaint, they were entitled to copies of the student’s records and not simply an opportunity to inspect and review them.  However, since the hearing officer reached this determination after the hearing had concluded, the determination was untimely since the reasons supporting the hearing officer’s conclusion (that parents should have copies of student records in order to ably prepare for a hearing) were rendered moot by the fact that the hearing had concluded.

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Alabama Magistrate Judge rules that IDEA does not authorize independent educational evaluations at public expense.

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Phillip and Angie C. v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 56 IDELR 225 (N.D. Ala. 2011):  A federal magistrate judge held that the statutory language of the IDEA does not authorize independent educational evaluations (IEEs) at public expense, despite the longstanding regulation allowing such.  As a result, the judge recommended that parents of an autistic student should not be reimbursed by the school district for an IEE they obtained at their own expense.

Part B regulations for the IDEA allow for IEEs at public expense.  However, the judge reviewed the language of the IDEA statute and noted that, although the statute authorizes IEEs, it does not include any authorization for those IEEs to be obtained at public expense.  The only authority for IEEs at public expense is found in the regulations.  Since the statute includes no such authorization, the magistrate judge determined that the regulation allowing IEEs is void.

Additionally, the magistrate judge decided that parents are not entitled to copies of their child’s educational records.  The statute and regulations only allow parents the right to inspect and review educational records.  Such a right does not inherently include the ability to copy such records, absent some compelling circumstance (such as a parent’s remoteness from the school, making it difficult for the parent to have a reasonable opportunity to inspect and review the records).  Therefore, the magistrate judge recommended that the parents’ request for copies of the student’s records should be denied, since the parents had ample opportunity to inspect and review the student’s file.

It should be noted that the magistrate judge’s recommendations are subject to approval by the District Court Judge.

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School personnel violated a student’s right to privacy by using a redacted psychiatric evaluation as a teaching tool for a literature class.

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

S.S. v. Mount Olive Board of Education, 56 IDELR 99 (D.N.J. 2011):  A U.S. District Court ruled for parents of a student with diabetes and anxiety as a result of the use of a redacted version of the student’s psychiatric evaluation by a school social worker and special education teacher as a teaching tool for a high school literature class.  The Court withheld a determination as to what harm, if any, the student suffered as a result of the unauthorized disclosure of his psychiatric evaluation.

A high school special education teacher wished to provide a sample psychiatric evaluation to his literature class as an instructional tool in relation to J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.”  The teacher requested a sample from the school’s social worker, who provided a psychiatric evaluation of the student, and attempted to redact personally identifiable information.  However, the students in the class were still able to identify the student due to the substantive information in the evaluation.

The parents sued, and the Court dismissed their claims under FERPA, HIPAA, IDEA and state student records laws.  Additionally, the Court dismissed the claims against the school district itself, and against various school personnel not specifically associated with the unauthorized disclosure of the student’s psychiatric evaluation.  However, the Court ruled in favor of the parents against the teacher and social worker under Section 1983, due to their violation of the student’s constitutional right to privacy.  The Court stated “no reasonable juror could find that” the teacher and social worker “did not breach a duty of care owed to” the student.

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Disclosure of information otherwise protected by FERPA is permitted in health and safety emergencies

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Letter to Anonymous, 53 IDELR 235 (EDU 2008):  According to the U.S. Department of Education, the 2008 final regulations to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) gives school districts and state educational agencies (SEAs) flexibility and deference in disclosing confidential information in student records to appropriate persons in certain health and safety emergencies.  School districts and SEAs may disclose information in education records to appropriate persons when such person’s knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of a student or other individual if there is a “significant and articulable threat to the health or safety of a student or other individual, considering the totality of the circumstances.”  However, the regulations also require school districts and SEAs to record in the student’s records the basis for its decision that a health or safety emergency existed.

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